The story of waking up naked next to someone whose name you don’t know isn’t new. However, Ride, playing at the PCL Studio at the TransAlta Art Barns, uses that story – often presented in a humorous light – to explore something much darker.
Elizabeth (played by Sereana Malani) and Joe (Cole Humeny) are the two individuals in question who’ve spent the night together. Each is intensely lonely or emotionally damaged, and of course has things to do and places to be after spending the night together. But, the two strangers can’t seem to separate, spending the entire day together, trying to remember how they met, playing Scrabble, sharing stories about their pasts, and – most centrally – trying to figure out whether or not they actually had sex. Ride not only challenges the “morning after” scenario by not being humorous (as we typically see in movies), but also by not having the characters rush to part ways and shower off the guilt (as is often presented in popular thinking about “one night stands”). Ride also doesn’t judge the “rightness” of one night stands, but instead explored the possibilities – why can’t you form a friendship out of one? Does it matter if you had sex with each other? Even if you did, does it mean you have to continue to be intimate with each other?
Most reviews I’ve read of past incarnations of this production focus on the characters and how “likeable” they were. While I haven’t seen the productions these reviews are referring to, it strikes me as blatantly obvious that in Director Trevor Schmidt’s take on Ride, it’s not about whether the audience likes the characters, it’s about whether the characters like each other. The set is designed so that the audience’s role is strictly defined – we’re not sitting in the bedroom, we’re firmly on the other side of the window. The fourth wall is not to be broken. The actors continue to prevent us from feeling like a part of the situation by frequently turning their backs to us, furthering the sense of isolation and loneliness while also increasing our hope that maybe the characters can ease their loneliness with each other.
Actors Sereana Malanie and Cole Humeny were good in their roles, and I particularly enjoyed the blocking. Both characters had little twitches which revealed a bit of their personalities – Sereana repeatedly smelling her shirt, and Cole seemed to switch between an introspective writer persona and the more “manly” poses. These quirks allowed us to get to know these characters, even though the dialogue was purposely sparse on details about them.
“I left the play feeling a little emotionally uninvolved. I didn’t feel like it was hard for the characters to open up to each other, or to let someone in on the baggage they were carrying around. Given the subject matter, I considered that this was done on purpose, but when I examined it more closely, the potential was there that this aspect just hadn’t been developed, either through the actors’ physicality or the dialogue. Other plays I’ve seen have increased the perception that it’s difficult for the characters to reveal themselves to each other through the use of facial expressions, looking physically uncomfortable, or by having the characters repeatedly start to tell a story and then stopping because it’s too difficult. While the last point in this list is the fault of Jane Bodie’s script, I would have walked away from the play feeling more emotionally invested in the characters if I had felt like it was a little more difficult for them to connect to each other.
Overall, though, I enjoyed Ride‘s exploration of one night stands. Mixing an interesting script with two very capable actors, Ride left me thinking perhaps it’s not physical nakedness we need more of in our lives, but emotional nakedness.
Ride plays in the PCL Studio at the TransAlta Art Barns February 1 – 9. Performances are at 7:30 – the full schedule can be seen at YEGLive.ca. Tickets are $20 – $25 and can be bought from Fringe Theatre Adventures.
– Jenna Marynowski